Why marketers should cut social media budgets

All too often, brands invest millions of dollars into social media for the wrong reasons. Paid advertising is a more effective way to acquire new customers than investing time and money into a social media presence.

The key to marketing success is to reach as many category buyers as possible. Your users need to be aware of your brand.

It’s a relatively simple concept. If someone thinks of your brand at the point of purchase, it increases the likelihood of a sale. So why do brands still invest so much into their social media presence?

According to The Journal of Advertising Research, social media attracts people who are familiar with, or heavy buyers of a brand. Think about it – you probably wouldn’t like a brand on Facebook unless you’ve already made a purchase with them or you’re already aware of their presence. If you’re going to acquire new customers, it’s important to reach out to new users and make sure they’re aware of your brand. Invest in higher reaching channels rather than focusing on your existing social media followers.

The proof is already out there. Brands will often back away from traditional high reaching mediums (such as television) to invest in social media, only to see a decline in sales. The Pepsi Refresh Project is a perfect example. Pepsi reduced its television investment to finance its social spend. While the project was live, Pepsi saw a consistent decline in market share, resulting in a loss of over $4o0 million.

Although this doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t exist on social media. Social media can be a great tool for customer service, it can boost SEO and act as a content hub for thought leadership initiatives. Paid social advertising is a great way to reach users outside of your current social media following and drive customer acquisition.

I Sea: Awards are not the purpose of advertising

I worked in the music industry for many years, with many globally renowned artists, songwriters, composers, producers and musicians, from Max Martin to Mutt Lange to David Hirschfelder.

These creative titans always only ever had one measure of success: ‘How many units did we sell?’.

To them awards were largely an irrelevance. Advertising seems to work the opposite way. Many people claim to be creative – not to sell, but to win awards. Awards are not the purpose of advertising. The only role of advertising agencies is to reduce price elasticity of demand for their clients products and services through inspiring, memorable, high-reach communications.

This grows businesses. This increases total, long-term shareholder return. This builds 100-year brands. That’s what advertising does when it’s really, really good.

However, many, many ad agencies don’t understand business, don’t understand this concept, don’t aim for it, don’t measure it and ultimately add zero shareholder value.

So how do they measure success? How do they feel like they’re winning? Through Likes, awards, plaudits of their peers and other empty measures.

And in many, many instances, they are so unfocused, so utterly without purpose or vision that they create fake work in order to win creative awards at Cannes in the hope that they can win clients, do empty work without meaning and make enough money that they can traipse off to Cannes the next year with a bagful of fake work and win creative awards.And so on.

So much so that the KPIs of most ad agencies are populated with awards win metrics, so that awards become the sole focus of the agency. ‘Scam’ is even joked about as ‘Strategic Creative Advertising Marketing’. Not doing worthy work – but making fake work to win awards.

So, the creative awards shows are largely filled with fake work, with organised ‘voting blocks’, where countries and holding groups game the voting systems to ensure their underperforming sectors, geographies or brands can win awards.


They claim these creative awards will ‘allow us to hire better staff’ or ‘give us profile with clients’. However, these just don’t add up.

What adds up is that only approximately 20% of marketeers are trusted by their CEOs to drive growth in their business. That the average tenure of a CMO in a publicly-listed company is less than three years.

That clients all over the world are waking up to the fact that the trillions of Likes they campaigned so hard for haven’t added to their revenues.

What adds up is that to grow, CEOs increasingly turn to accounting firms and other consultancies to provide marketing and advertising services because they understand business.

What adds up is that advertising is losing the battle for talent; where will our talent come from unless our industry adjusts course and more agencies recognise the true, sustainable measures of success?

Ideas are the most powerful driver of business growth, but the most revolutionary and amazing ideas in the world today aren’t being judged at awards shows in the south of France; they are being judged through the consumption of sovereign individuals, consumers who seek to buy these ideas, fragmented into the shape of can’t-live-without apps, of memorable songs, of stunning product design, of brave start-ups, of beautiful stores, of essential credit cards.

This kind of commercial creativity – this creative gale of entrepreneurship and capitalist endeavour – needs the help of advertising agencies to grow and to flourish. Clients make this incredible stuff, it’s our duty to extract the intangible value and to inspire people to buy it.

What advertising creates isn’t worthy of award, but it is highly worthy of reward. Drag a person out of their living room and into your store. Build a website that allows them to buy something in such a beautiful and simple way that they’ll do it again.

Use data and insights to create and launch 1,000 new insurance products – one for every suburb.

Make someone change the way they drive home to shop in your supermarket. Build an app that gives service staff everything they need to make the experience incredible. Inspire and educate clients as to how marketing really works.

Create content so useful that a million people refer to it every year. Give millions a message so insightful, resonant and so well branded that they can’t forget you when they next want to buy your brand of drink. Do this every day. Find ways to measure it. Find every day success. Be rewarded.


The purpose of agencies needs to move away from the disgusting work epitomised by Grey Singapore with its ‘I Sea’ app – disturbingly and predictably awarded at Cannes – and towards recognising the real growth and real success as measured through: client revenue growth; client share price growth; increasing internal rate of return, decreasing cost per acquisition; enduring advertising creative that burns its way into the consciousness of people who don’t care and don’t share; to convincing millions of consumers to buy the products and services of clients instead of a few giddy creative directors sitting in a room in Cannes.

A true democratisation of success. Real reward. Music to my ears.

McDonald’s new unbranded campaigns are actually very distinctive

McDonald’s recently released a series of advertisements which are completely stripped of any branding, yet the brand is still instantly recognisable. The ads show a close up of the food but have no text, logo, or mention of McDonald’s.

Mc donalds

mc donalds

Mc Donalds

McDonald’s is known to focus on food in its advertisements which, over time, has built strong mental connections between the food and the brand. This means that it can be recognised by its food alone.

This is similar to what Nike has done with the iconic Swoosh. Nike consistently used the Swoosh in every piece of brand communications over a long period of time, making it strongly associated with the brand. Now Nike can be recognised by the swoosh alone.

The best way to build distinctive brand assets is to create something that is unique and use it in all communications for as long as possible. Over time it will become strongly associated with your brand and act as a mental cue in a purchase occasion.

It is however risky to leave other brand assets out of your communications because over time they may deteriorate in peoples memories.

To find out more read: Would you like fries with your branding?

2015 Super Bowl ad review: PART 2

As I wrote two weeks ago, unbranded ads are a waste of time and money. TSN just released the results from its analysis of the 2015 Super Bowl ad campaigns, which highlighted that the unbranded ads added no value to the brand.

The research found that Budweiser’s ‘Lost Puppy’ ad had a 26% share of ad mentions online, however, “it achieved a poor score on personal relevance, thus failing to translate into memory – and ultimately value – for the brand”. 

The article mentions that the product only features at the end of the ad and is barely noticeable.

Budweiser wasted their media budget and missed out on an opportunity to build brand salience.

Budweiser should have:

  1. Introduced the brand as soon as possible
  2. Included the brand as often as possible
  3. Ensured the brand was big enough and clear enough for viewers to see
  4. Used a branded hashtag

Facebook’s new call-to-action button

Facebook has just released a new call-to-action button for company pages.

The call to action button sits on the right hand side of a page’s cover photo and will take users directly to your app or website.


The button can read either Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up or Watch Video. This means it will be beneficial to all types of businesses, for example a retailer could have a Shop Now button, a bank could have a Use App button, and a hotel could have a Book Now button.


You can also choose a different destination for iOS and Android devices. For example a travel agency that only has an iOS App now has the ability to send iOS users to the App store and Android users to their website.


This is a great example of how Facebook is becoming a hub that links together your whole online presence.

2015 Super Bowl Ad Review. #WasteOfMoney

The NFL Super Bowl is the world’s most sought after advertising space, however, is it really worth the money?

In 2015 over 114 million people watched the Super Bowl making it the most viewed program on television in America. A 30 second ad spot during the Super Bowl costs around $4M or roughly $35 per thousand impressions.

There are no surprises that advertising during the Super Bowl is comparatively expensive, but is it really worth it?

The 2015 Super Bowl saw the likes of Budweiser, Nationwide, Microsoft, Mophie, Dove, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz flaunt their most impressive creativity. Unfortunately for these brands it was not worth the $4M, they wasted it on poorly branded advertisements.

If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck at the Super Bowl (or in any ad) it’s essential that you:

  1. Introduce your brand as soon as possible
  2. Include the brand as often as possible
  3. Ensure the brand is big enough and clear enough for viewers to see
  4. If you use a Hashtag make sure it’s directly linked to your brand

The bulk of the ads shown during the 2015 Super Bowl lacked clear branding. If you look at the videos below you will notice how the brand is not mentioned or seen until the last few seconds. If your brand is not blatantly obvious don’t expect consumers to remember you. People do not pay full attention to advertising, roughly 1/3 will actively avoid TV ads by doing things such as switching channels or leaving the room, 1/3 will passively avoid by doing things such as playing on their phones or chatting to friends, and 1/3 will actually watch the ads. This makes it vitally important to be highly branded so even people not paying full attention will still recognise your brand. No matter how funny, sad, or beautiful the ad is, people will forget what is being promoted unless it’s well branded.

Secondly NONE of the hashtags in the examples below are branded either. Look at the list of Hashtags and see if you can guess what brand they belong to from the ones mentioned above:

#TeamHare #TeamTortoise #ItsThatEasy #RealStrength #StayPowerful #BestBuds #MakeSafeHappen #HelloFuture #Empowering

Everyday over 500 million tweets are sent on Twitter making it increasingly important for brands to standout amongst the clutter. Your brand must be easily identifiable from your hashtag, otherwise you are wasting your time and money with an unownable, unmemorable, and unbranded communications.

The Loctite ad was a great example of clear branding. They managed to mention their brand 8 times in a 30 second ad, introduce the brand in the first few seconds, and create a catchy and distinctive jingle (see below), however, they also used an unbranded hashtag #WinAtGlue.

In every ad make your brand the focus of any communication, reach as many people as you can, and make your brand famous.

Dove Men + Care: #RealStrength no branding till the last 10 seconds

Mercedes-Benz: #TeamHare #TeamTortoise not seen in the first 30 seconds

Mophie: #StayPowerful not mentioned till the last 3 seconds of a 1 minute ad

Budweiser: #BestBuds no branding till the last 4 seconds

Nationwide: No branding till the last 7 seconds

BMW: #HelloFuture

Microsoft: #empowering No branding till the last 3 seconds


Three things we can learn from Apple’s $US18 billion net profit

Apple recently reported a record profit for the past financial quarter. The $US18 billion net profit is the largest quarterly profit to be posted by any company ever. Apple has gone from strength to strength, so what can we learn from one of the most successful companies in the world?

We can learn three important things from Apple to ensure success, prosperity, and growth for brands around the world.

The three keys to brand growth are:

1) Good product

Apple is a market leader when it comes to product innovation, improvements, and updates. They are not known for being the first in market, but they are known for having better products than everyone else. For example they have not yet released the Apple Watch, they have waited to learn from other similar products so they can improve and innovate their offering. Apple always thinks of the end user when developing their products which is evident in their sleek UX which focuses on minimising options to reduce complexity. This design philosophy is derived from Hicks Law which states that decision time increases as the number of alternatives increase. When you have a good product, people are happy to buy it. It’s simple, people won’t buy bad products. There is a reason why Apple sold over 74 million iPhone 6s in 90 days (this equates to 9 every second).

2) Well remembered

It’s highly likely that when you think about mobile phones you think of the Apple iPhone first. Your brand should strive to be the first brand thought of in your category, if people don’t know your brand, they won’t buy it. Apple spent over $US1 billion on advertising in 2013 just to let everyone know they exist. This may sound extravagant, but it only equates to roughly 6% of their profits. Apple has a very distinctive clean and minimalist style of advertising where the product is always the hero, which means when you see an Apple ad, you know it’s for Apple. Apple has built such strong distinctive brand assets over time such as their white head phones, sleek rounded product design, the “i” prefix in their product names, and the Apple logo. They are clearly recognisable in all of their product categories thanks to their distinctive look and consistent, wide reach advertising.


3) Well distributed

Apple stores are hugely successful, they generate the most revenue per square foot than any other retailer in the US. However, only a portion of their products are sold in Apple stores with significant revenues coming from retail partners such as Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, AT&T, Verizon, and numerous online stores. Apple takes a high reach approach to distribution, their products are always in a nearby store, or a click away. If your product is not readily accessible or available to consumers, they will seek alternatives. Make sure your product is everywhere that potential consumers may be.

Take Bart’s advice – Don’t sell your soul… to the discount devil

In the mid 90’s Bart Simpson sold his soul to Millhouse for a mere $5. After a series of calamities he realised that life isn’t the same without a soul.

Fast forward twenty years and it appears that brands haven’t learnt a thing from the world’s favourite animated bad boy.

Walk into any supermarket and you’ll be slapped across the face with an array of specials, markdowns and 2 for 1 deals, but does selling your brand’s soul to make a quick buck really pay off?

As a shopper who can resist a bargain? As a brand, however, does it actually increase the sales of a product?

The simple answer is no. By discounting your product you are cannibalising your future sales, training customers to only buy on sale and devaluing your brand.

How does this work? When a product goes on sale, people will purchase it at that discounted price, not full price. You’re giving away discounted product to people who probably would have bought it anyway, therefore eroding revenues.

If a brand of toothpaste goes on sale, for example a two-for-one special, people will buy more than one tube meaning they won’t need toothpaste for a longer period of time. No matter how cheap the toothpaste is, people are not going to clean their teeth more often. Discounting gives away product that would have been purchased in the future, it doesn’t increase overall sales.

Discounts also impact the way customers perceive your brand. Slashing prices gives them the perception that your brand has lower value, it also turns the conversation away from product benefits and providing need solutions and solely to price. This trains your customers to expect discounts and to only buy from you when you are on sale.

Three things build brands and increase sales:
Have a good product: if it’s a bad product people won’t buy it.
Be well remembered: with memorable advertising and communications, extract intangible value and tell people what makes your product great.
Well distributed: make sure your product is available for sale absolutely everywhere.

Price promotions don’t work.

The holy trinity of 21st Century communications – marketing, technology and design

Watching this video of Coca-Cola’s new interactive vending machine, Anthony J Phillips, the Global Marketing Manager of Coca-Cola, talks about the “fantastic partnership between marketing, technology and design”. I think it’s a profound and important partnership that will dominate marcomms into the future. I’d add another element – human behaviour in the form of anthropology / behavioural economics.

How best will we marketers and communicators best be trained for this future – in order to best understand and communicate with people? Technology studies? Cultural anthropology? Town Planning? Data science? Architecture and Design? Typography? Behavioural Economics? Sociology? All of the above?

To me, old fashioned integrated Marketing and Public Relations & Communications just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.